Nicola Barry

Monthly Archives: February 2014

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Smoking and drinking during pregnancy

Drinking during pregnancy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Drinking in Pregnancy

At times, it seems as if our society is obsessed with keeping children safe – from unsuitable adults, from paedophiles and from child abductors. Yet, in the case of women who drink while pregnant, there are very few people out there keen to protect those unborn babies. At long last, campaigners who want to make it a crime to drink excessively during pregnancy may be a step closer with a landmark case on the issue due to be heard by the Court of Appeal, in London. It will be argued that a six-year-old girl is the victim of a crime because she suffered brain damage when she was exposed to alcohol in the womb. Her mother was well aware of the risk involved. The case comes at the same time as 50 per cent rise in Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) over three years.

Hell is a drunk pregnant woman

Unfortunately, I know what I’m talking about. I was born drunk. My mother tippled her way right through pregnancy. She couldn’t face life without vodka, sherry, wine, you name it and her drinking devastated my childhood. My mother drank for as long as I can remember and everything that happened in our household was either a direct or indirect result of her drinking. Anything was allowed to happen. I was sexually assaulted by a joiner who worked in our house while my mother lay drunk in the next room. We were too ashamed to tell anyone. At the age of ten, I was confined to a wheelchair and had about 15 operations on each hip over the next nine years. It was then that I realised there was something wrong with my mother. She was told that her drinking during pregnancy was responsible for my disability and I think that only made her drink more. Whenever she leaned over me, to give me a bedpan or help me wash, I could smell alcohol. Occasionally, she’d swig from a bottle in the pantry; saying she couldn’t face any nursing tasks without her “wee cocktail”.

My poor mother spent her days drunk or drugged, or both. This was our secret as a family; the secret everybody around us shared but refused to acknowledge. That is why I believe shame is a far bigger sickness than alcoholism, especially here in respectable Scotland. Everything is hidden. The harm adults, parents, who drink to excess do to babies, children and young people is hidden as well. Hidden harm. My mother was also a doctor. She should have known better. She only practised briefly before she had children. She had been a brilliant, compassionate, witty woman who happened to fall under alcohol’s spell. Whenever she emerged from our house in Edinburgh, her bag bulging with empties, our neighbours looked away in disgust, as they did when she returned with a respectable purchase like a tin of soup on top of six clinking bottles of vodka. There were bottles everywhere in our house: in the wardrobe, in the cistern, inside boots and shoes. We didn’t dare have friends round: she was far too unpredictable. We lived in a bubble, cut off from the world by our own strangeness and unpredictability. It may not sound like it, but I loved my mother. It was just that I wanted her to be normal like other mothers, to bake scones, cook us meals when we came home. I could never understand why my father, also a doctor, didn’t stop her drinking. It took me years to understand that nobody stops anyone drinking. Years later, she fell downstairs and lay at the front door. When I got home from school, I thought she was dead. But she was just dead drunk. I was forever fishing her out of the bath when she couldn’t stand up, clearing up the vomit from her bed, watering down her secret supplies of drink when I thought she wasn’t looking. Her promises drove me mad. I wanted to strangle her because she kept swearing – on the Bible incidentally – she’d stop drinking and taking prescription drugs, yet she always started again.

Don’t get pregnant if you have to drink

When she died, I found her. She was lying on the floor in our respectable Murrayfield home, a mouse wandering about behind her, nibbling on bits of food she’d discarded when drunk. I remember how awkward her head looked – as if it had been screwed onto her body back to front. She lay on her right side, facing the door. She was wearing an old dressing gown, her arms were outstretched, mouth wide open; saliva on her chin. She had vomited on the floor, near where her bedside lamp had fallen. The bulb had burned a big hole in the carpet. She had choked to death. For years, I was eaten up with guilt and misery. Even though I did all I could to help her – I was haunted by the feeling I could have done more.

Then, I remember how much pain her drinking caused me. It may sound harsh but mothers who drink have to be held responsible for the damage they inflict. If you can’t stop drinking, don’t get pregnant.

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Preventive Medicine

Preventive Medicine Beats Picking up Pieces When It is Too Late

Doctor Rob Lawson has, almost singlehandedly, begun a revolution in healthcare which puts prevention fairly and squarely before cure.  While not all his patients are walking miracles, one man who had terminal cancer might well qualify. Two-and-a-half years ago, the survivor – whose name is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality – and who is a member at Core Health Centre, near Drem, East Lothian , presented to Rob after his consultant oncologist had predicted he had just weeks to live.
After a consultation with Dr Lawson and fuelled by a strong will to survive, he acknowledged the necessary changes to diet and lifestyle and has now recovered to the point where he is believed to be cancer-free.
What makes Core Health unique is its insistence on prevention and survival rather than the customary palliative care.
As clinical director, Dr Lawson is a man for whom the word driven might have been coined – he even ploughed all of his savings into the project. While he worked in nearby Haddington as an NHS GP for more than 30 years, he was always aware that at least 70 per cent of his patients presenting with high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes could have avoided their conditions by making simple changes to their lifestyle.
Now Core Health is all about preventing premature, avoidable disability – even death – and about nurturing a longer, life and taking control of your health destiny.

At his clinic at the peaceful sanctuary of Prora Farm, Dr Lawson said: “I am a medical man with a passion for healthy living and for facilitating an extended quality of life for anyone. My mission is to help people engage with their health aspirations, thus ensuring a long life.”
Why did he invest all his savings on such a project?
“I have always known that we have a big problem in this country,” Dr Lawson said. “A conservative estimate is that 100 people in the UK die prematurely every day from avoidable diseases. These include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress-related disorders, dementia and even iatrogenic disease (drug related deaths) caused by doctors like myself, however well intentioned they may be. These are diseases of the 21st century and are associated with unhealthy lifestyle behaviours which can be altered with just a bit of determination.”
At Core Health, which opened in the Autumn of 2012, patients are asked how they think their health will be in 10 years .
“Most people have never thought about it,” Dr Lawson said. “Nor have doctors thought about helping people take more control over their health.
“The results we can achieve are extraordinary. The difference here is not just in our approach but in our purpose. Being a doctor often means having to treat patients once it is too late. Instead, we are here to support and build health instead of just treating illness. Regardless of age or physical condition, we can help anyone find a healthier, happier life.”
And that is where I come in. Always a poor sleeper, I sampled 90 minutes at Core Health with one of Scotland’s top cognitive hypnotherapists, Tom Lawrence. The treatment he uses is designed to free patients from inhibiting thought patterns which have been accepted by the subconscious in the past and which now restrict current thinking and behaviour in some way.
Despite some initial scepticism, I was quickly impressed by Tom’s line of questioning, his insights and recommendations. He asked me about my self confidence and suggested ways to change a few negative ways of thinking. The first night, I slept like the proverbial log and have, slowly but surely, improved my sleep pattern ever since. I will be going back.
The 30 therapists at the centre examine three fundamental areas of each person’s health: nutrition, activity and previous medical care. They combine traditional and complementary medicine to deliver holistic health solutions. There are on tap physicians, registered dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, psychologists, a hypnotherapist-cum-acupuncturist, physiotherapists, a podiatrist as well as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi instructors.
Dr Lawson said: “We recognise that sometimes even small changes can be difficult and that they have to be sustained.


“Look,” he added and there was anger in his tone, “Scotland is a country with the lowest healthy life expectancy in Europe and the highest number of fat people. It is a country in which children develop diabetes then go on to have amputations in their twenties. It is a country in which some youngsters will not live to enjoy the healthy lifespan of their parents.
“Yet, politicians still prattle on about our so-called safe, effective, world class health care. Do they never ask themselves why no other country in the world has adopted our system of care?
“In fact, it is a curate’s egg of a service and the bit that matters – helping us when we are ill – is the bit we all value. The NHS should be re-named the NSS – the National Sickness Service.
“Generally, it is fair to say that if something is free it is undervalued or overused or both. My long experience as a servant in the NHS suggests both apply.”
Dr Lawson believes there has been a long-held expectation that the NHS will always cope: “It can’t and it won’t,” he said with emphasis.
“We need our citizens to take a long hard look at themselves and to then decide to avoid the need to use the service by taking responsibility for and managing better their own health.”
Like all pioneers, Dr Lawson is struggling to make potential investors see how crucial Core Health’s approach is to Scotland; to appreciate the disaster facing us.
“We need to eradicate the perception that the answer to all ills lies in a free pill,” he said. “As a matter of urgency, we need to embrace preventive and lifestyle medicine – the one proposed by Hippocrates 2,500 years ago.”
There are other attractions: the clinic plans to buy equipment such as a cancer mole scanner as well as re-open its shop and restaurant as an educational focus for healthy, enjoyable eating.
Dr Lawson said: “If we are innovative in this way, we might just slow the tsunami of 21st century diseases heading our way long enough to clamber up to the safety of higher, healthier ground. Now that really would be an achievement on anyone’s watch.”
Dr Lawson knows that the potential market is huge; that there is a definite shift in momentum towards self-managed health.
He added: “Some 60 per cent of those questioned in the latest Scottish Health Survey have at least three health risk behaviours and 98 per cent have at least one. It is painfully obvious where we are headed as a nation if we fail to take immediate action.”

























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Ian Hamilton – Stone of Destiny QC

Ian Hamilton – Stone of Destiny QC

With customary boldness, Ian Hamilton QC, has said that Westminster is “very, very frightened” at the prospect of an independent Scotland.

Hamilton is one of this nation’s treasures. In 1943, he volunteered for active service while still at school and went before a selection board.

English: Panorama of Westminster North Entrance

Panorama of Westminster North Entrance. Wikipedia)

Deemed suitable to be a commissioned pilot, he was put on deferred service until a vacancy arose. A few years ago, in an interview, he said: ““Not many people know that Bomber Command killed some 55,000 grammar schoolboys like myself. I spent nearly three years in a barrack hut, just lying about doing nothing. It made me so angry. Some 20,000 men were retained for aircrew training. We never saw any action at all while our contemporaries were being killed.  An officer told me he thought there could be another war against the Russians. I said if there was, I would be on the other side. It was the closest I ever came to mutiny.”

The mantel of being the most famous Scot in modern history still sits somewhat uneasily on the shoulders of retired QC Hamilton. His daring feat, on Christmas Day, 1950, with three fellow students, was not done for fame or fortune, but to make a point about Scotland’s true place in the brave new post-war world. And it was there in some lonely RAF base that the daring plan to steal The Stone of Destiny first took shape. A thoughtful, quiet man, obviously proud of his actions as a young man, he is unwilling to be defined by them. Neither is he the sort of person to be carried away by the rhetoric of others. Whether he likes it or not, Ian will always be known as the man who hatched a plot to steal the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey, bring it home thus reawakening the sleeping giant of Scottish Nationalism.

What led up to stealing the stone? “I was at university,” Ian said, “but had hatched the idea on deferred service. After a barrack room, university was an enormous freedom. Life suddenly exploded into meaning for me and the anger I felt gradually gathered a bit like a boil.” At that time the only guard on the stone was The British Empire. “No-one ever imagined anyone would break into the very heart of the British Empire, so, they didn’t bother guarding it.”

Over coffee in his house with stunning views over Loch Na Beithe, beneath Ben Cruachan, he told me how he and three other young Scots, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart stole the stone of destiny from Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day 1950 and brought it home to Scotland. The symbolism of what the trio did was not lost on Scots who took to the streets to celebrate, what they saw, effectively, as Scotland’s destiny released from English hands. “I suppose I was a Nationalist but I was always a Scot first. Every single political party these days is nationalist, every single party supports home rule. What is a nationalist but someone who wants extended power for their country? During the war the SNP was run by fascists Dr Robert Macintyre and Arthur Donaldson. They were dotty, completely. They continued to be dotty for about 20 years. The current official line is that we weren’t prosecuted because, to do so, they would first have to establish rightful ownership. Any lawyer knows that is nonsense. With theft you don’t have to prove ownership. Most stolen cars belong to an employer or a hire purchase company. The Lord Advocate does not make the searches to find out who owns the car. We weren’t prosecuted because the Scottish people made it clear by taking to the streets and cheering that there would be riots if we were.  It took them three months to find us. The Glasgow Police had no clues, the crime was unique so there was no modus operandi. My father gave me an alibi and because he was a strict Presbyterian, everybody believed him.”

As part of his research, Ian had withdrawn from the Mitchell Library as many books as he could find on Westminster Abbey
”The police concluded that the perpetrator must have had a deep inside knowledge of the Abbey,” he said, “They went to Glasgow University library but nobody had taken out books on the abbey. However, at the Mitchell Library, however, they discovered one person had taken out every single book.   The police arrived early one morning and asked me to go with them. I told them the law decreed they must arrest me first. But when they told me they had the other two men and that they would get all the grief, I went.  There were a lot of policemen and a chief inspector from Scotland Yard who interviewed me. He held my library slips in such a way that I could see them, whether to intimidate me or just carelessness, I’ll never know. I pre-empted him by saying my main interest was ecclesiastical architecture, true, that I had taken out all the books on Westminster Abbey I could find. It could have been a fraught morning but it wasn’t.”

When first admitted to the bar in 1954 as a young advocate, Ian took another stand and refused to swear the oath to Elizabeth 11. He was told if he refused, he couldn’t become an advocate. In the end, once again, popular opinion forced the authorities to capitulate. He said: “It was bad enough for a young person to defy the establishment,” Ian says, “but when he also forces them to climb down, he is not going to be popular.” Did his rebellion hold him back professionally? “Yes, it held me back for 2 years. Then, by chance, in 1956, someone put me into the appeal court where junior counsel opens for the appellant, with senior counsel only there to sweep up at the end. Within a week, I was offered work by the firm of solicitors who had been on the other side in the appeal court. I worked for insurance companies as well. It was challenging work and I soon built up a big practice. I should have been a writer, like, say, Alan Bennett, the award winning playwright.” In fact Ian is an award winning playwright. In 1957, he won the Foyle award for Tinkers of the World, for the best play in British repertory. The award was won the previous year by Sheila Delaney and John Osborne the following year.” Does he see himself as a writer? “Oh yes, absolutely,” he said, “I do not regard myself as a reasonably successful lawyer but as a failed writer.” In the Nineties, he also wrote his autobiography, A Touch of Treason as well as his republished and unputdownable Stone of Destiny. As an advocate, Ian had a formidable reputation

His biggest murder trials Bluebell woods, in 1986, and the murder of a prostitute, body found in exhibition centre car park, one of six or seven murders of women in the sex trade. “Because of that acquittal, Strathclyde Police became convinced there was no serial sex killer yet the modus operandi in each case was the same. The real evidence just didn’t fit my client. “I have probably done more murder trials than anyone else in Scottish criminal history. Murders tend to happen outside pubs, a phenomenon I call causing death by careless kicking. A young man goes out at night, particularly these days, armed with a knife. I tell you the same person ends up on the mortuary slab as in the High Court on a charge of murder, just because of a flurry of blows outside a pub.”

How does he think Scotland is doing?

“There is a buzz about Scotland because we are getting our self confidence back”, he said. “Nationalism is just another name for self confidence. I believe we will see independence in my time. And we will be able to solve problems like poverty here as well as abroad. In Scotland, you can discount the Tories, the Liberals will always go where there’s a little power and the only election Labour can be sure of winning is the election for a new leader.”

Does he rate politicians? “They are like anyone else although an SNP politician is more likely to be driven by ideals. People vote for two reasons, self interest and idealism. The Labour and Tory Parties have satisfied neither of these in Scotland for all these years. They are imploding on themselves.

“I have always believed independence would come. Becos when I was lying in my barrack hut and the Atlee Government was doing everything to support the British Empire’s hold over the weaker nations, I learned that people are very fond of their own country, and, as soon as you start to acknowledge your country exists, you immediately want a say in its government. Anyway, history is on our side.”

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